Motlow Bucks basketball season ends in first round of TCCAA/Region VII Tournament
The Motlow State Community College Bucks basketball team saw its dream of a three-peat as TCCAA/Region VII Tournament champions end Saturday night in Cleveland with a 92-76 loss to Cleveland State in the tournament’s opening round.
Motlow finished the 2018-19 season with an 18-11 overall record and a 14-4 conference mark. The 18 wins was the fewest for the program since 2014, and only the fourth time in the past dozen years the Bucks have failed to win at least 20 games.
The Bucks entered the tournament as two-time defending champions, having won in both 2017 and 2018 and representing the conference at the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas. It is the only back-to-back championships in the history of Motlow State men’s or women’s athletics.
However, after losing all five members of the starting lineup to graduation, as well as several key reserves, second-year head coach Arthur Latham had to rebuild his roster. Although the Bucks had another solid season, finishing tied for first place in the conference standings during the regular season, another tournament run was just not in the cards. It didn’t help that the Bucks had to play the home team in the tournament’s opening round.
Although Cleveland State entered this year’s tournament as the No. 7 seed with an 11-15 record, they followed their win over Motlow and advanced to the championship game against Roane State, the No. 8 seed, which Cleveland State won 70-58. The Cougars will represent the region at the national tournament.
Motlow led the Cougars 34-31 after one half of play Saturday night, but the home team stormed back and outscored the Bucks 61-42 after intermission. Cleveland State won the rebounding battle 36-30, forced Motlow into 17 turnovers, and dished out 20 assists on 28 made baskets. The two teams were almost identical in their shooting percentages, but the Bucks had only 12 assists on 29 made baskets and got to the free throw line only 14 times, while the Cougars hit 26-38 free throws.
Leo Castillo led the Bucks in scoring with 18 points while also pulling down five rebounds, dishing out seven assists, and grabbing two steals. Josh Greer had 16 points with three rebounds, Darius Harding scored 13 points, Jayven Humphrey added eight points, Bryce McBride scored seven, Nic Barstad had six, and Josh Endicott and Kin Webster each scored four.
The Bucks averaged 82 points, 48.6 rebounds and 16.7 assists per game during the season. They shot 44.5 percent from the field, including 33.1 percent from three-point range, and hit 68.5 percent of their free throws. They finished with an 8-3 record at home, 10-5 on the road, and 0-3 on neutral courts.
Harding, a freshman from Elizabethtown, Ky., led Motlow in scoring this season with 397 points, an average of 16.7 points per game. Greer averaged 10.6, Castillo and Endicott 9.7, Marcus Lacey 8.8, and Humphrey 8.2.
Endicott, who was named the TCCAA Defensive Player of the Year, averaged 9.3 rebounds per game and was named first team All-Conference along with Harding and Castillo. Castillo led the Bucks with an average of 3.9 assists per game and joined Harding in averaging 1.3 steals per contest.